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Say No to AccountNow and You’ll Thank Us Later

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The AccountNow card says it’ll curb the power of regular credit cards. With the abundance of hidden fees and the seemingly irresistible temptation to “buy now, worry later,” credit cards have the power to make or break our financial health. AccountNow.com’s prepaid debit card purports to control that insatiable thirst to spend while protecting users from sneaky annual, over-the-limit and other fees. But, unfortunately, the “cure” for credit card fees comes riddled with fees of its own.

Here at NerdWallet, we’ve done what we can to educate consumers on the real story behind the prepaid debit card. They claim to improve credit scores and shield you from the outrageous fees, but they’ve just turned out to be nothing more than the traditional debit card’s ugly (and very expensive) step cousin.

But, despite our various warnings, some people still want to give it a try, so we’d like to at least help you navigate the prepaid debit waters as safely as possible.

Tantalizing Temptations

The AccountNow Prepaid Debit card from Visa is a popular prepaid card, but one that should definitely be avoided. In addition to its claims about promoting responsible budgeting and other money saving tactics, the AccountNow card also advertises the standard “no credit check” and “no overdraft fees,” gimmicks often used to intensify a prepaid card’s allure.

Account Now also offers free check cashing (but only when using direct deposit) and emphasizes that everyone can join, even those listed on ChexSystems. But although they offer some rather enticing deals, the benefits are severely outweighed by their ridiculous fees.

There are two AccountNow prepaid cards available—the Classic card, for occasional users, and the Gold card, intended for frequent users. The Classic card comes with a $4.95 one-time set up fee and although the Gold card doesn’t have a set up fee, they stick you with a $9.95 monthly fee instead, and attempt to soften the blow by calling it a “Gold Privilege” fee. The Classic card doesn’t have a monthly fee but charges $1 per transaction, coming up about even with the Gold Card by the end of the month.

The lesser of the prepaid debit evils

If you really have your heart set on a prepaid debit card, you’re better off with the new American Express prepaid card in terms of fees. It doesn’t have a monthly fee, a sign up fee, or a replacement fee for lost cards (as opposed to AccountNow’s $15 replacement fee). It gives one free ATM withdrawal a month, and charges $2 per ATM use after that, compared with the AccountNow Gold’s $3.75 withdrawal fee.

But just because it’s better than the AccountNow doesn’t mean it is free of problems itself. American Express doesn’t offer free deposit/reloading with direct deposit (yet), so your deposits will cost you $4.95 with a Green Dot Money pack, unless you have a credit card or a checking account to make deposits (which makes a prepaid debit card more or less irrelevant). For all the media hype, the AmEx prepaid falls a little short of its goal of helping the unbanked. Plus, AmEx card can only be used where American Express is accepted, limiting your choices to about 4.5 million merchants. But still it manages to be cheaper than the Account Now cards for those without bank accounts.

Many look to prepaid cards to improve poor spending habits or to help revive an ailing credit score, but the truth is, if you want to make some real changes to your financial situation, a prepaid debit card won’t help. A prepaid debit (or really any debit) card won’t raise your credit score, no matter what you hear. Despite popular belief, there isn’t usually a credit check involved when getting a checking account, so a prepaid debit card isn’t the only option for those of you with poor credit. If you’re having credit trouble, you’re better off with a regular checking account or one of these credit cards specifically for those with bad credit.

  • Susan

    DO NOT get an Accountnow card! I had my payroll deposited on the card on Feb 11, 2012, today is Mar 21,2012 I still have not been able to access my account. My account was placed on hold by them without notifying me because I attempted to transfer money on the card from my husbands checking account (which for some reason) they didn’t recognize and froze my account. Without being notified I tried to use my card after leaving Houston and driving to Austin. The card would not work. After holding on the phone for 58 min I was told I had to fax my ID, SS, and a bill with my address on it to them. did this on Feb 12th after revieving it for a week and a half they then decided I needed to fax them a paper stating why I was depositing money on to the card… what??? so on Feb 28th I faxed that information. Two weeks later they decide I need to fax them a request to send me my funds. So again on March 13th I faxed that request. Today is March 21st I have been on hold with this company for 1 hour and 12 min to speak to someone who has no clue what is going on, I still have no money and no answers.

  • Dallas

    AccountNow took $5500.00 of my tax money for no reason. They let me use the card for about a week and then all of a sudden, the ATM would say card invalid. Efforts to reach them failed. They asked me to fax driver license, w-2, social security card. Their advertistment says no credit check so why do they need all of this. I faxed and then they refuse to answer calls or questions. They said
    they had sent the money back to the IRS who of course says the do not have it. They bait you to
    use this card for tax refund, let you use it for a few days and take rest. I have contacted the FDIC and they informed me that they have a lot of complaints against Account Now. I filed a complaint
    with the Consumer Affairs dept and they are investigating. They took my money in February 2012. This money does not belong to them and I do not understand how they get away with it, I sent
    in every document they requested to prove identity and still no money. Why don’t they check
    identity before they send out cards. They purposely send you the card, wait for your tax check to hit and then freeze the card. Just check out all of the blogs about Account Now and you will see why people are saying not to use them. I suggest that we all put a post on facebook and get the word out to people about this scheme. If the IRS sent the money, who are they to take it, it does not belong to them. With all of the technology, they could get on skype and compare my face with the drivers license i sent them and see the card in my hand. Pass it on to keep someone else from taking a loss. It happened to four close friends also.

  • meekluvsq

    your right service reps are a joke they took $77 from my account threw a western union trans and it was canceled then they didnt credit my account back then they trying to tell me it was but cant give or show me when it was. but im about to cancel with them and file a complain with FDIC and BBB.

  • Sabrina Run

    Account now is the worst debit card i have ever used . They ripped me off on all my money i had and they kept taking and taking money . They’ve robbed me for the money i had saved up for my kids and now i had to start off on a new card . All of their hidden fees is too expensive . I filed a complaint with them several times and i never get a response . Now that the monthly fees kept coming and coming i had to deactivate it . But now that i have a rush card i have my money right on track and no monthly fees or hidden fees .

  • Lauren

    I got gas the other day had about 90.00 on my card only got 15 in gas went to use the card somewehre else and it declined… I called the bank and they told me that my account had to be more than 100.00 in it or it would not have happened. some bullshit answer like that and they told me that i have to wait for the merchant to take their money before i can get my money back… so now i have to wait when i was using that money to get my car fixed i am so fucking pissed

  • Guest

    i just activated the card two months ago and never used it and it is
    sayin that i owe money and i dont know how does ANYONE know how to
    deactivate the card i already cut it up

  • http://www.facebook.com/doingwhatiwant.causeican Doingwhatiwant Causeican

    They took 5339.42 from me. I don’t understand wtf they are doing but I am in the process of finding me an attorney. Maybe we can get a major suite going against them. I wish I would’ve seen these before I got there card. They also took like 400 from my sister. Smh Ill keep yall posted.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=816609419 Kitwana Robinson

    I had Account now card but that don’t go at ATM or teller banker use before i tested it block at teller banker then you can’t tax rebate on Account does it’s Gamble when you sign $ 250 rebate each ? when i answer to Account ” no thank you ” cleaned my account is safe without fool .

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DXP6SOW2H2O3TYX3IEPH4XS3E4 Sue Anne R

    I would not be surprised if all the people who have had bad experiences with this card also happen to be employed by a bank! Remember, banks hate these online debit cards because they want you to open a bank account and charge you fees. Yes, online accounts charge some fees for you to be able to have some services, but I have had 4 online accounts with different cards and have never had the problems some of these people are reporting. It is true if you use your debit card at a gas station it could freeze additional money for 24 hours, so go inside and use the attendant they will check you out without freezing your money. The usual fee is $9.95 for an occasional user and $4.95 if you have a direct deposit. This is still a better option than 1 overdraft fee of $34.00, and banks will cash checks before making deposits to your account with the hopes of bouncing multiple checks. Online accounts deduct each purchase from your account in real time, not wait until the end of the day.

  • Cedric Patterson

    Accountnow is truly a ripp-off. I will definetly start a blog about this company. The company has hidden fees that are not consistent with your balance statements. If you take the time out to balance your transactions you will notice that the final balance is always different. I have started doing this with accountnow and noticed that when I keep up with my own statement I always come up short at least $20 or more dollars. Lord and behold I sat on the phone with an agent from Account now and discovered that there were fees taken from me that were not projected in the balance. After the agent and myself noticed the issue then Accountnow posted the amounts taken. They tried to cover their mistakes later by saying they were giving me a credit. Please be advise, stay away from Accountnow its a rip-off.